Mar 23, 2014

I Hadn't Understood, by Diego de Silva

This Italian novel is published by Europa Editions, a press that specializes in bringing exceptional foreign language novels to English readers. It's a wonderful book, funny and moving and existential. Vincenzo, our (somewhat anti-)hero is 42, a struggling lawyer who's been separated from his wife for two years and shares with her a stepdaughter and a son. He's a bit of a bumbler - smart, no doubt, but rather locked up in his own world, and he rarely thinks before he speaks, often surprising himself with what comes out of his mouth. His ex-wife, though she has a live-in boyfriend, still occasionally calls him for sex, which is complicated by the unforeseen and utterly shocking attraction a particularly beautiful colleague shows in him. Add onto this his appointment as the defense attorney for a man involved in the Camorra (i.e. mafia) and a son who keeps showing up to school having been visibly beaten, and Vincenzo is in for a rough week.

De Silva has written other novels, plays and screenplays, and that background shows in this work. It's written a bit like a movie, even referencing how things would have played out had Vincenzo been, in fact, in a movie, or his observation that we seem to instinctively and subconsciously imitate Hollywood in our daily lives. It's a gimmick that mostly works, only falling flat very occasionally. It's a great book, fun to read and with an utterly endearing protagonist, and I'd like to note as well that you really can't go wrong with Europa Editions books.

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